Confused on where we are? I’m taking this moment while my travels are grounded to care for my mom to catch up on my black hole of un-blogged content. Here, I’m covering my time in Thailand from March through May of 2017. My apologies for any confusion with the timeline, and thanks for sticking with me.
From the moment I heard Coldplay was coming to Bangkok, I knew I would be there. Me and about ten billion other Coldplay fans — it had been fourteen years since they’d played Bangkok.
With the relatively high ticket price, I wondered if I’d find a friend to come with me — and so I was equal parts shocked and thrilled when my friend Päivi immediately insisted we had to go.
Getting concert tickets in Thailand is incredibly logistically difficult (I’m literally still crying over the great Madonna ticket sale disaster of 2016), but luckily Ian was up in Bangkok and was able to nab us a pair in person. We immediately booked flights, and planned a three night girls’ trip around it. At one point we were talking about bars we wanted to check out and Päivi, who was definitely in nesting mode, assured me, “don’t worry, I won’t get pregnant until after our trip!”
I’m sure you can guess how that turned out! Honestly, I didn’t care — I’ve been on a million wild weekends in Bangkok; I was just thrilled to get to spend some true quality time with one of my dearest friends before she became a mama.
We took the easy Nok Air flight and ferry package from Koh Tao to Bangkok and landed late at night — for all the ins and outs of how to get to and from Koh Tao, check out my Wanderland Guide to Koh Tao!
We immediately checked in to X2 Vibe, ordered delivery McDonald’s (wish I could blame that on the pregnant lady, but living in Thailand on a remote island with no fast food left me obsessed with McFlurries) and fired up the latest episode of Nashville (we had a standing weekly date to watch it) before passing out.
I fell in love with the X2 brand during my sister’s visit in December, when we spent a few days at the X2 Resort in Koh Samui and would love to hit all the hotels in this playful and funky — and crazy affordable, in this case! — Thai owned brand.
This hotel was the perfect choice for our little getaway. It’s located a five minute walk, or a thirty second free tuk tuk shuttle to, the On Nut BTS station — which was perfect for our itinerary, all of which was skytrain accessible. This is the best way to get around Bangkok and we actually didn’t even get in a cab until we went to the concert!
We were a mere fifteen minute drive from stadium (in no traffic, anyway!) which was a huge reason we chose the hotel, and twenty minutes from Suvarnabhumi Airport, perfect for catching our early flight the next day.
It was a shame we had to go so early since X2 Vibe automatically extends checkouts till 2PM — can we make this into a trend, please? Our room was trendy and stylish, and they’ve since added serviced residences with full kitchens for longer stays. We were happy however eating breakfasts and one dinner at the onsite 4K Restaurant and Bar.
While the hotel was brand new when we stayed and not all amenities were open, they’ve since opened a small onsen and spa to compliment the fancy gym that we definitely did not use. We did however, love the pool for cooling off after hot days of running around Bangkok.
X2 Vibe is the brand’s fun and affordable sister line of hotels — can you believe this one starts at a mere $50 a night?
Our first morning, we headed out for a shopping malls and movie day — a classic must-do for Koh Tao residents unleashed in the Big Mango. The funny thing is I do everything within my power to never, ever step foot in a mall in the US — nothing could appeal to me less. But after months on an eight square mile island where there are approximately 2.5 appealing retail outlets, it suddenly feels like I’ll die if I don’t get to plunder the sale rack at an H&M. I think it’s kind of the same situation as the McDonald’s. We all fetishize what we can’t have.
Also, Bangkok has some bitchin’ malls. One of the most fun concepts is Terminal 21, in which each of the nine floors of the mall is themed to a different world-famous city.
Our next stop? The movies at another mall — EmQuartier CineArt (I swear, one of these days I’m going to write a movie goers guide to Bangkok.) Had I not had one planned, I probably would have considered a separate trip to see Beauty and The Beast on the big screen. Päivi was incredibly patient with my need to sing every song from the soundtrack out loud at full volume, and to whisper my comparisons to the animated version at select moments throughout the movie.
The next morning, we woke up pumped for the big show. But first, a bit of pampering! After our very basic day in Sukhumvit the previous day, we were ready for a hipster version in Thonglor. We popped into a random nail salon (I’ve yet to find a go-to in Bangkok — hit me with any tips in the comments!) before grabbing lunch in my then-current obsession, The Commons.
The first floor is basically the world’s hippest food court, with pop-up versions of some of Bangkok’s best eateries serving their famous fare. Then there are two stories of carefully curated boutiques topped by a spin studio and a rooftop bar that offers weekend workshops on tea infusing and flower arranging! This little spot was everything I missed about city living wrapped up in one neat package. I couldn’t wait to show Päivi my latest discovery — which, needless to say, she was as smitten with as I was.
We did lunch at Barrio Bonito, and then I nearly fainted with excitement when I saw s’mores on the menu at neighboring stall Meat & Bones. Päivi, who is Finnish, had never heard of them, so I regaled her with childhood nostalgia of one of my favorite treats in the world while we waited for our order.
I was salivating at the memory of the graham cracker-y, chocolate-y, marshmellow-y goodness. What arrived, tragically, was some weird mix of chocolate and a white fluffy substance piled on, I kid you not, an off brand saltine. Asia has some of the greatest cuisine on the planet. But when it comes to recreating beloved desserts from other cultures… not so much. When shall I learn!
No time to dwell. We were off to the spa! Having terrorized Päivi with Disney and dessert-based memories from my homeland, it was time to celebrate one of hers. Well, sort of. Paivi has often regaled me with tales of Finnish sauna culture, and we’ve always dreamed about a trip back to her home country together for me to experience it for myself. She literally grew up with one in her house, which is not unusual! While Bangkok has yet to produce a full Scandinavian spa, they did recently open a Japanese version: the Let’s Relax Onsen and Spa.
After much debate, we decided to splurge on a full package including a facial, a massage, and the full onsen experience. It was a splurge at 2900B, but seriously, this was quite literally one of my favorite things I’ve ever done in Bangkok. The design of the onsen was stunning — cameras weren’t allowed for obvious reasons, but you’ll just have to go see for yourself someday.
Despite the modern design this onsen is very traditional and we were the only non-Japanese customers there the entire four hours we spent there. The full nudity took a minute to get used to, but fear not, it’s separated by gender, and, well, everyone is doing it. There were very detailed instructions on which pool to get in for what amount of time and in which order, directions I appreciated because they gave us a focus and kept us busy.
The funny thing was that when Päivi announced she was pregnant I assured her I’d cancel our sauna appointments and she’d looked at me like I was crazy. When I told her that in the US, women are advised not to go in saunas during pregnancy, she was horrified; even researching and showing me the Finnish national health service website which advised that there was no reason for pregnant women to avoid their sauna. Visibly pregnant, she definitely got some side eye from some of the other onsen goers, but what I love about Päivi is she could not have cared less! And for anyone at home who might be horrified reading this, she is now mom to a very healthy and happy baby.
On the way back to the hotel to get ready for the show I may have tried to convince Päivi that I needed to complete our day of beautification by checking out Thailand’s first tanning salon, but she talked me out of it. I think I mostly just wanted to see who the customers of this place were in a country that one can scarcely buy deodorant without a bleaching agent in it. Thais are obsessed with white skin!
That said, I read that the majority of their customers are foreigners. And, interestingly enough, the founders hoped it would provide Bangkok residents a bit of Vitamin D during the hot season, when temperatures were actually too unbearable for customers to be outside.
And then, finally, it was time for the main event. Well, almost. First, we had to get there. We called the hotel’s front desk asking for a cab and they told us no cabs would go out to Rajamangala Stadium that night! We thought we had been quite clever choosing a hotel that was a bit closer, and apparently we weren’t the only ones with that idea — the concierges had been trying to get guests there for ages.
Finally, we thought to check Uber. Phew! Getting back would prove to be even more of a drama. If you’re heading to a big stadium show in Bangkok, just mentally prepare to walk for miles and be stuck in traffic for hours, and then be pleasantly surprised if it turns out to be somewhat simpler.
But whatever, we made it! Hilariously, we both packed sweaters, fretting about over air-conditioning. We arrived to find that the stadium was open air — ha — and our seats, the cheapest category we could buy at 4,500B (about $145), were at the very back of the stadium up approximately one million concrete staircases, with no elevator in sight.
Our sweaters seemed like a hilarious joke as we arrived in our seats covered in sweat. Päivi was a trooper, never once complaining. We were so high up and at such a steep pitch I think anyone with a fear of heights would be sweating for another reason.
But as the show kicked off, I suddenly felt like we had the best seats in the house. We were so far back from the stage that it was hard to see what was going on there, but Päivi and I didn’t mind a bit – we were thrilled to people-watch everyone in our section and take in the enormity of the crowd backed by the Bangkok skyline. It’s been years since I’ve seen a big stadium show and I just couldn’t get over the magnitude of it all — or, of course, the music.
Coldplay has truly been in the soundtrack of my life in Thailand – In My Place in my headphones on a million flight takeoffs, Paradise on a loop on my first backpacking trip through the country, Yellow in almost every dive video I made when I landed a job as an underwater videographer, Clocks on loop when I first fell in love, The Scientist soothing me when my heart was in pieces.
The energy in Rajamangala Stadium was magical, with fans flying in from all over Southeast Asia to be there! People were waving flags from Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, and beyond. For one segment of the concert, Coldplay had collected video requests for a favorite song from fans on Instagram. The winner, who’s video they played on the big screen, was the cutest kid from China. He said in very timid English, “I got a passport and am traveling out of China for the first time ever to see Coldplay. When I get nervous I tell myself, don’t panic, don’t panic!” Then the band played Don’t Panic, and it was just about the cutest thing that’s ever happened in the world.
Truly, it was an amazing night in which I felt like I watched the last eight years of my life and my love affair with Thailand play right in front of my eyes – with a friend who has been through my side for almost all of it. And wow, what a ride it’s been.
Afterwards, we headed to Octave, one of my favorite rooftop bars for one drink to toast to our fabulous weekend of friendship.
All this time later, I can’t hear a Coldplay song on the radio without almost tearing up, and immediately texting Päivi how much I miss her. Getting lost in that music, in that crowd, and in that moment was one of a million memories I just treasure from my life in Thailand.
Here’s to the magic of getting lost in our memories.
And here’s to the soundtracks of our lives…
Many thanks to X2 for hosting us in Bangkok. As always, you receive my honest thoughts and opinions regardless of who is footing the bill.